College News

Grant funds learning initiative Sept. 22, 2007

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Pittsboro, NC Chatham County Schools has received a $45,000 planning grant for the establishment of a middle college program in conjunction with Central Carolina Community College (CCCC) at its Chatham County Campus in Pittsboro.

The grant is part of the states Learn to Earn initiative, which seeks to lower high school dropout rates by developing middle college programs for academically gifted and/or disenfranchised students not thriving in traditional high school environments.

We believe this program is a win-win situation for students, said CCCC Chatham Campus Provost Dr. Karen Allen. The program will not only help lower the countyies dropout rate, but it will also help students who need a different lea ing environment to maximize their success in school.

The grant provides both CCCC and Chatham County Schools with a coach to help plan all aspects of the program including everything from curriculum to student transportation to class scheduling. Leaders of both organizations hope to open the program in the fall of 2005.

Under the middle college concept, rising juniors and seniors who meet certain qualifications could transfer to the middle college program and attend class fulltime at CCCC. These students would take four classes each semester with two being taught by Chatham County School teachers and two by college faculty. Students would take college courses in the mornings or evenings with other CCCC students and high school classes in the afternoons.

Middle college students could take classes in any of the curriculum programs offered at the Chatham County Campus including office systems technology, sustainable agriculture, university transfer and medical assisting. There would be no change in the required number of credits for high school graduation. Students would graduate from the middle college program with a high school diploma and a years work toward an associate degree. Enrollment would be limited to a maximum of 100 students since the program features smaller class sizes.

The program will target students who are able to complete college level work but do not fit into the high school environment. Students with a history of disciplinary problems would not be admitted.

This program is designed to reach out to students who have potential but are not thriving, not happy in their high schools and are possibly on the verge of dropping out; The middle college program gives them an opportunity to reach their potential.

The middle college program, also called the early college program, has a history of success in other North Carolina counties. Each program varies slightly depending on the needs of the community.

Guilford Technical Community College in Greensboro has hosted a program for several years that features honor level courses. Similarly, the program at Bennett College, also in Greensboro, targets teenage mothers.

The Earn to Learn initiative is funded in part by the New Schools Project, a non-profit group established by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the remainder being funded by the state. The North Carolina Education Cabinet, convened by Governor Mike Easley provides oversight for the middle college program.